Scott Roeder’s Place in the Anti-Choice Movement

A judge declared at a Tuesday hearing that there is enough evidence against Scott Roeder to move forward to trial. Roeder is accused of killing Dr. George Tiller, an abortion provider from Kansas. As I noted yesterday, Roeder is unfortunately not the first person to murder an abortion provider. Paul Hill assassinated Dr. James Britton in 1994. Dr. Britton was a health care provider and The Ladies Center in Pensacola, Florida. A fellow health care provider from the same clinic, Dr. David Gunn, was murdered by Michael Griffin in 1993. Here’s a Newsweek article from 1998 about Dr. Gunn’s assassination.

Michael Griffin fervently believed that an accidental encounter he had with abortion doctor David Gunn was a sign from God. On the morning of March 5,1993, Griffin, a 31-year-old factory worker in Pensacola, Florida, and a zealous follower of local anti-abortion reader John Burt, pulled into a Pensacola Exxon station, and there was Gunn. The doctor, well known to anti-abortion activists in the area, was sitting in his car drinking coffee and reading a newspaper before heading to work at The Ladies Center, the local clinic that had so often served as ground zero for the antiabortion movement in the South.

“I thought it was Providence,” Griffin now says, revealing his meeting with Gunn for the first time in an exclusive prison interview. “I knew he was getting ready to go kill children that day. I asked the Lord what he wanted me to do. And he told me to tell him that he had one more chance.

“Griffin walked over to Gunn’s car and tapped on the window. “I looked him right in the face and said, ‘David Gunn, the Lord told me to tell you that you have one more chance.’ He just looked at me.

“For five hours that afternoon, Griffin stood outside The Ladies Center waiting for Gunn to leave. Griffin recalls: “I felt like I had another word from the Lord for him: that he was accused and convicted of murder and that his sentence was Genesis 9:6 ‘Whosoever sheds man’s blood, by man his blood shall be shed.’”

“Then, right before he got in his car, I said, ‘David Gunn, are you going to kill children next week?’ ” Griffin claims that Gunn replied by saying, “Yeah. Probably.”

Five days later, Griffin fired three .38caliber bullets into Gunn’s back as the doctor got out of his car in the parking lot behind the offices of the city’s other abortion clinic, Pensacola Women’s Medical Services.

By drawing blood for the first time in the nation’s war over abortion, Michael Griffin changed forever the shape and direction of the organized anti-abortion movement, then reaching a new peak of clinic blockades and other protests. Ironically, it had been buttressed only two months earlier by the Supreme Court’s landmark Bray decision that expanded the movements right to use nonviolent civil disobedience.

But Griffin’s murder of Gunn in March 1993 ended all hope that the movement could regain credibility or influence through nonviolent civil disobedience. Griffin ripped back the curtain to reveal the dark side of the movement’s soul, and there were no balancing forces within the movement pushing for peace.

Scott Roeder claimed throughout his hearing on Tuesday that he had financially contributed to the anti-choice group Operation Rescue, despite OR founder Randall Terry’s many efforts to distance himself from Roeder. Randall Terry was similarly connected to Paul Hill, who claimed that Terry’s virulent anti-abortion rhetoric inspired him to assassinate Dr. Britton. You can’t stand outside of an abortion clinic with a sign that says that abortion providers should be executed and then act shocked or dismayed when someone takes you up on your rhetoric.

The Center for Reproductive Rights very accurately calls abortion providers “human rights defenders.” They have a video series up on their site right now about clinic violence that I highly recommend. You should also download their new report about anti-choice violence. Some quick facts from the report:

  • According to the Guttmacher Institute, the number of abortion providers in the U.S. declined by 25% between 1992 and 2005. Guttmacher found that 87% of all U.S. counties lacked an abortion provider in 2005, and that 35% of women in the U.S. live in those counties.
  • This constant assault doesn’t just endanger and marginalize abortion providers; it denies the rights of the one in three American women who will seek an abortion in their lifetimes.

Educate yourself about the history of the anti-choice movement.  And if you’re not fired up and ready to take action to defend a woman’s right to control her own body, then you’re just not paying attention.

**Clarification: Scott Roeder has claimed that he has donated to Troy Newman’s Operation Rescue. Randall Terry is the original founder of OR, and he has distanced himself from Roeder’s actions.


  1. Randall Terry put some, but not very much distance between himself and Scott Roeder.

    Troy Newman has distanced himself, denying that they received contributions from Roeder. He’s afraid of losing future contributions. His people were there at the preliminary hearing this week in support of Roeder. Roder sat with them when Tiller was being acquitted of trumped up charges, just as they did with Paul Hill at Shelly Shannon’s trial. Chronic clinic arsonist Shannon shot but failed to murder Dr. Tiller years ago before Hill murdered an elderly, unarmed escort for Dr. James Britton. Hill had shot another elderly escort, wife of the retired Lt. Col whom Hill murdered, before he reloaded his pump shotgun and murdered Britton as well.

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